Mini-Reviews: Dear Sweet Pea, Small Spaces, and The Lightning Thief

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

This was my first book by Julie Murphy, and I really enjoyed it! I only picked it up because of a reading challenge but I ended up really enjoying it. I’d been a little skeptical of her books because of all the hype, but I’m definitely planning on trying out her YA novels now.

Sweet Pea was a really charming character and I liked all of the casual diversity — I think that’s so important in books, and books for younger kids in particular. It tackles some big topics like divorce and homophobia, but it does it in a really natural way. I did feel that some things were resolved a little too easily, but then again, this is middle grade and less than 300 pages, so all in all, it was pretty great.

#ps19: a book with a title that contains “salty,” “sweet,” “bitter,” or “spicy”


Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Borrowed

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

I hadn’t actually planned to read Small Spaces when I did, but it was available at the library, I had finished my other audiobooks, and I remembered Kristen recommending it, so I decided to go for it. It was really good! This is the kind of creepy, spooky story that would be perfect for Halloween.

Just like with Julie Murphy, this was my first book by Katherine Arden. Since I’m pretty picky about MG books, I’m taking it as a really good sign that I liked this! I’m excited to eventually read her YA series.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Source: Borrowed

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Over the years, so many people have told me to read the Percy Jackson books. Multiple children have told me that this is their favorite series, and I can understand why. This book is a lot of fun. It has a quest, it has betrayal, it has mythology. I can see how Percy would be easy to relate to.

The problem was that I just didn’t care.

I’m not really sure if this was a problem with me not typically loving middle grade stories or if it was more that the hype killed this book for me, but I don’t really feel like continuing on with it. I will, however, try out The Lost Hero.

#ps19: a book with at least 1,000,000 ratings on Goodreads


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Recent DNFs

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me talk about how rarely I DNF books. It happens, at most, a couple times a year. But when I get in a DNF-ing mood, I really get into it. I DNFed three books in one day recently, and here’s why.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Talk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I’ve previously read one other book by Helena Hunting (I Flipping Love You) and I thought it was fun! I’d seen a lot of good things about Meet Cute, and it sounded just like the kind of book I’d enjoy.

Well, I didn’t. I made it to 7% before I quit.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with this book. It’s just not for me. Kailyn is a grown woman practicing law and she still spends an inordinate amount of time obsessing over one small event from college. There’s nothing sexy about her love interest other than, I guess, he’s supposed to be really hot?

I don’t know, I just couldn’t get into this story or these characters.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

I checked this book out from the library because it sounded so interesting and I figured the whole “moon” thing would make it count for one of my reading challenges. Well, I made it a whopping 5% into this one before I gave up.

This is the kind of book I would have probably loved as an actual middle grader. As an adult, not so much. Much like with Meet Cute, there wasn’t anything wrong with this book. I just didn’t like it.

#ps19: a book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title


Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA. 

Of the three books I DNFed, this is the one I wanted to like the most. I’d really been looking forward to this book and even did an interview with the author. But after reading this book for more than a month and only making it to 28%, I had to be honest with myself. I was not enjoying it.

To be fair, I’m not sure this is really the kind of book that you enjoy reading. It’s about conversion therapy, bullying, and an alcoholic parent. It’s really heartbreaking and it’s just not something that I need in my life right now.

I didn’t really get along with the writing style either. I didn’t mind it at the beginning of the book, but as it continued on, it just got to be way too much for me. Like, when Jonathan slams a door, the description is “whambamthankyouma’amSLAM.” Too much.

A lot of people have rated this book highly, but it wasn’t for me.


Have you read any of these books? What’s the last book you DNFed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… 

In case you weren’t already aware, Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact is one of my favorite books. From the characters to the message to the excellent texting, I loved everything about it. Permanent Record was at the top of my most anticipated list for 2019, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC while at BookCon.

This book was not Emergency Contact, Part Two. Part of the blame is on me for thinking it would be. But instead of loving this book, I was really, really disappointed in it. So disappointed that I’m really just sad thinking about it. I won’t get into any spoilers in this review, but here are some bullet point reasons why I didn’t like this book:

  • The slang. In Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam talked like actual teenagers. In Permanent Record, the amount of slang Pab and Lee use is almost embarrassing. Nobody talks like that. Nobody.
  • The lack of responsibility. I get that it’s one of the main conflicts of the book, but I could not get over how literally every single one of Pablo’s problems could be solved if he’d just take some responsibility for his actions. You can’t ignore your problems until they go away, Pablo!! Life doesn’t work like that!!
  • I didn’t really see a point to it? I slogged through all 417 pages of this book only to get a non-ending. That’s not even mentioning how bored I was the entire time I was reading this book.

Am I mad that I took the time to read this book? I guess not. Did I enjoy it even a little bit? No. I’m just disappointed, but since I loved Emergency Contact so much, I’m still planning to read whatever Mary H.K. Choi publishes next.


Have you read Permanent Record? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Borrowed

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s books now and I think that I can safely say that I really enjoy her writing style. Her books are always really readable (or, in this case, listenable? is that a word? I’m a linguist and I just made it one) and Doll Bones is no exception. I found this book while scrolling through my library’s Overdrive and figured it would be the perfect book to listen to during Spooky Season.

I was pleasantly surprised that Doll Bones is about more than just, you know, the doll bones. More than anything else, it’s a coming-of-age story about Zach, who, along with his friends, loves crafting stories featuring his action figures, until his father decides he’s too old to play like that and throws out all of Zach’s toys. While Zach’s flat-out refusal to communicate with his friends about why exactly he wouldn’t be playing anymore was frustrating, I had to keep reminding myself that he’s literally twelve years old. I couldn’t expect him to act like an adult, and I don’t know many twelve year old boys who are tuned into their feelings enough to openly discuss them with their friends. (That said, I admittedly don’t know many twelve-year-olds in general.) There’s some really good commentary on what it means to grow up and how scary it can be.

Then there’s the actual spooky story about a bone doll made out of the bones of a little girl who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. A number of things happen that could be real or imagined, and it’s never really clarified, which just makes things spookier.

One small critique is that I don’t think the romance was even remotely necessary and I was a little bit disappointed to see it even factor in to the plot. I guess a few people had paired off when I was twelve years old, but it definitely wasn’t a big part of my middle school life. More than anything, I think that particular plot felt a little forced.

Overall, I think this was a really well-written middle grade book! As an adult, there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, but I really can’t hold that against the book since I’m far from its intended audience.

Previously: The Cruel PrinceThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown


Have you read Doll Bones? Can you recommend any spooky MG books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Source: ARC via author/publisher

A powerful middle grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.

From the first time I heard about this book, I was intrigued. A middle grade historical fiction novel set in Communist Romania? That’s a little different from what I usually read, and a little different from what I usually see floating around the book blogging world.

The thing is, I’ve been in kind of an extended reading slump for a few months now. It’s very rare that I want to pick up a book for more than a few minutes at a time, but this one had me hooked from the first page. Quite honestly, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if I hadn’t had other things to do.

So, where do I even start with this review? I guess, first, I’ll talk about Ileana and what a great heroine she was. Sure, she’s a great storyteller. But she’s also smart and perceptive and a little bit sassy, and above all, she’s a normal little girl. She makes mistakes and lives through the consequences. She questions the Communist government that she’s grown up in without it feeling forced or overly political. Her character growth over the course of this book is incredible and I was so, so proud of her by the end of the book.

The next thing I want to talk about is the story itself. I’ve never read a book quite like this before, and I think that was another thing that kept the pages turning. Not only was there the story of Ileana moving from the city to the country to (hopefully) escape the Romanian Securitate, but interspersed throughout the story are chapters of Romanian folktales, which I loved. Toward the end of the book, I actually got goosebumps reading about how everything played out.

As always, I want to avoid spoilers, so I’m going to cut myself off here. I’ll end by saying that this is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

J. Kasper Kramer is an author and English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in creative writing and once upon a time lived in Japan, where she taught at an international school. When she’s not curled up with a book, Kramer loves researching lost fairy tales, playing video games, and fostering kittens.

Twitter • Website • InstagramFacebook


Have you read The Story That Cannot Be Told? What are some of your favorite historical fiction books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Guest Post: The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer (Playlist)

I am so excited to have J. Kasper Kramer here to share a playlist of songs that go along with her new book, The Story That Cannot Be Told. I absolutely loved this book and my review will be up later in the month.


Here’s a selection of songs that helped me write The Story That Cannot Be Told.

“Dear Reader” – Jason Graves (from Moss)

I’m a video game nerd, so a lot of the music I listen to comes from games. The entire soundtrack to Moss could be on this list. It’s absolutely perfect.

“Worth Fighting For” – Emily Hearn 

Not to get too spoiler-y, but this song, especially the chorus, makes me think of Ileana during some important moments in the novel, when she’s feeling hopeless but chooses to keep going.

“Childhood I” – Atrium Carceri

No exaggeration, I’ve probably listened to this (and “Childhood II”) on repeat for days at a time. It has a fantastic spooky fairytale feel, which is just right for some of the creepier moments in Story, like when Ileana’s traveling up the mountain to the village in the dark.

“Where Is Love Now” – Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek is a go-to favorite, and this song really captures how lost Ileana feels after a certain someone betrays her and sends her away.

“Owl’s Friend” – Alan Gogoll

This whole album felt right for Story in its happier, more light-hearted moments. It was hard to pick just one song, but “Owl’s Friend” feels like an appropriate choice. It makes me think of Ileana and Gabi hanging around together, not doing their homework.

“Endless Fragments of Time” – Deep Watch

Another song that played on repeat a lot. This one was the exact tone I needed for writing the fever dream, where Ileana travels to the monastery at the top of the world. 

“One Summer’s Day” – Joe Hisaishi (from Spirited Away

I’m a huge Ghibli fan, and I’m sure my writing is influenced by their movies. (Doesn’t Story’s cover even have a bit of a Miyazaki feel? I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.) You could probably pick any Ghibli score and fit it to something in one of my books, but this specific song makes me think of Gabi and Ileana at the end of the summer, when they share a special day together in the fields.

“Safe and Sound” – Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars

I found this song long before Story was even an idea in my head, but it fits really nicely. I like to imagine Mamaie or Tataie reassuring Ileana, perhaps when she’s sick or when she’s fearing for their safety and the safety of the village.

“Dream. Build. Repeat.” – Jim Guthrie and JJ Ipsen (from Planet Coaster)

This album is amazing. Another video game score for the win. “Dream. Build. Repeat.” makes me think of Ileana and Gabi enjoying nature and creating stories together.

“You Were Never Gone” – Hannah Ellis (from Teen Wolf)

I suppose this song fits best at the end of the novel, but I listened to it often while brainstorming for several important scenes—some which didn’t even make it into the final version of the novel. There’s something about the bittersweet lyrics and desperate buildup at the end that really helped me capture Ileana’s emotions.

“Snow Angels” – Thomas Bergersen and Two Steps from Hell

I found Two Steps from Hell over a decade ago, before they had much public music available, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. You likely know some of their songs from movie trailers. This one fits nicely in the scene where everyone steps outside Sanda’s house, a bit mesmerized, after being snowed in for quite some time.

“The Truth” – Fernando Velazquez (from A Monster Calls)

I absolutely adore this book, and though I always feel strange comparing my work to things I admire, Story also has difficult themes and some similar narrative structure, so including something from this score felt appropriate. I won’t spoil anything, but to me this song captures the emotion of several important moments for Ileana during and shortly after the novel’s climax.

“Light” – Sleeping at Last

If Tata was a singer—which he certainly isn’t—he would sing this song to Ileana at the end of my novel.

You can find the Spotify playlist here:


ABOUT THE BOOK

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer
Links: Amazon • TBD • GoodreadsIndiebound
Publication Date: October 8, 2019

A powerful middle grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

J. Kasper Kramer is an author and English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her debut novel, The Story That Cannot Be Told, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster/Atheneum on October 8th. You can find her online at www.jkasperkramer.com and on Twitter @JKasperKramer.


Have you read The Story That Cannot Be Told? Do you love any of these songs?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

PLACES, EVERYONE!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Drama is one of those books that I’ve seen floating around the bookish universe a lot. I see it on blogs, I see it on Goodreads, and I see it on lists of frequently challenged books. When I found it at my library’s used bookstore for only $2, I figured I didn’t have much to lose by buying it. I read it over the course of about 45 minutes and while it was fine, I didn’t love it.

To be fair, I don’t read a ton of middle grade books, and especially middle grade graphic novels. I appreciated a lot of the themes in this book — being comfortable with yourself, the normalization of pre-teen gay and bisexual characters, and following your passions. As someone who did tech crew for several plays and musicals in high school, I enjoyed the fact that much of this book takes place behind-the-scenes at a middle school production.

That said… this book was just so dramatic. And I guess that’s to be expected. I mean, the title of the book is literally Drama. While I had expected play-related drama, I hadn’t expected so much romantic drama. The main character, Callie, is absolutely fixated on finding herself a boyfriend. She falls for multiple boys over the course of this 238-page book. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I expected that this story would be more about the play than about this seventh grader attempting to get a boyfriend.

Another thing that didn’t sit quite right with me was the insinuation that romantic relationships should be a big part of middle school. Time to get personal for a second — I didn’t go on my first date until I was sixteen years old, and I didn’t get into my first actual relationship until I was eighteen. One of the characters in this book is referred to as a “late bloomer” because, at twelve years old, he’s never had a girlfriend. Is that really considered abnormal now? I had to keep reminding myself that these characters are supposed to be pre-teens, because their romantic entanglements (and the responsibilities they’re given for the play!!) make them feel more like high school upperclassmen.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun to read, but the sheer amount of romantic drama kept me from rating it any higher than three stars.


Have you read Drama? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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